With the arrival of the holiday season - and arguably 2018 is now taking over from 1976 as "the year of the long hot summer", it's vitally important that you and your little ones are properly protected. It's also really important to make sure that everyone gets where they're going in as relaxed a way as possible - otherwise, why go away in the first place?!
Theoretically, using sun protection factor (SPF) 15 sunscreen should be enough to stop sun damage – but in reality, people need SPF 30 or 50 to be safe. That's for adults – imagine the issues when protecting the smallest members of your family. Skin cancer is a horrible thing and a very real threat.
It's not just sun protection – the process of travelling between A and B can be fraught with unseen stresses. Here are my top tips for a trouble-free holiday period:
Avoid the busy times. There is little worse for everyone than being stuck in a jam for hours in the heat. Very young children have little concept of time, so an hour seems like ‘forever”. Getting up really early or waiting until everyone else has left and then travelling at night with children in PJ’s a good option, especially if they can sleep on the journey.
Book the more civilised flight times even if it costs a little more. Otherwise, if you have to start really early – or really late – and are then delayed, the problems are magnified by having to carry tired little ones through queues. Choose where you sit – aisle seats close to aircraft toilets mean children can get up and stretch their legs a bit. Seats in the middle of the aircraft plane sometimes offer more room, albeit at a cost.
It sounds obvious, but make sure you have a plentiful supply! Small, healthy snacks (plus the odd treat) can really calm cranky moments and get everyone on track again (adults as well!)
A treasure bag is the best travel aid I've come across and with a little imagination it can work for older children too. Get hold of a drawstring bag (like a PE kit bag) and start collecting cheap but fun items that you know your children will enjoy. The idea is that they can have one item every so often. The deal you then make is that they have to wait for a period of time before being allowed the next item and that they close their eyes and put their hand in, taking just one item at a time.
A bag for each child works best and stops arguments. You can borrow things from friends and offer them things when they travel. Anything goes: slime, silly putty, puzzle games, a rubik cube, dot to dot books, quizzes (for older children), transfers, fuzzy felts, little story books (or comics for older ones) small cars/dolls. Be brave with messy play items like play dough and slime and putty - they can keep children amused for hours and the benefit outweighs any amount of clearing up in my book!
You need to know where you are going. Getting lost really raises the stress levels and particularly so in the heat with tired, grumpy children. Talk about your trip with your children beforehand so they know what to expect especially if the journey is going to be long or could be delayed through traffic or flight cancellations.
Make sure your mobile phone number is written on a wrist band or tucked into their shoes so that if they get lost they can tell someone your number and be reunited swiftly. But: Never write their name!
In your pre-trip chat, remind them to stay close and if they do become separated to go to a group of people rather than a single person – preferably shop assistants or security staff. Point out the uniforms and, for older children, a suitable meeting place to go to if necessary. Having this conversation and putting these steps in place can save a lot of heartache. Remember – in crowds one pair of legs looks very much like another to a small person!
Have a list of games up your sleeve for when the treasure bags lose their appeal. I Spy, I Went To Market and I Bought etc. Post-It notes on the forehead and everyone has to guess who the others are, 20 Questions. Wink Murder and so on.
Take hand-held, battery powered fans or keep the air conditioning on to keep things cool (but remember that it dehydrates). Have some ice packs and/or water wet wipes to cool down with.
If someone becomes angry or upset try not to get sucked in – instead acknowledge and stay calm. Making someone who already feels upset feel guilty as well when they were already feeling fed up and cross, doesn’t help – whatever their age. Try not to care what other people may think – if you focus on your children and their feelings (ignoring strangers) then they will pick up that you really care and want to help and respond more swiftly. Children never respond well to comments that are designed to be overheard by other people in such a way as to make us seem like better parents!
If you're pouring out care and attention all day, remember that your own jug will need a refill in the evening...